Malilong: Fighting City Hall

IN 2012, when they were Cebu City's representatives in Congress, Tomas Osmeña and Raul del Mar wanted to build more flyovers to help address the problem of traffic congestion. The plan was, however, vigorously opposed by Michael Rama, who was then on his first term as mayor.

Rama was backed by civil society groups, the most prominent of which was the Movement for a Livable Cebu. Their howls of protest were so strong that Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson was compelled to withdraw his department's endorsement of the plan. In frustration, Osmeña realigned the P400 million funding for the flyover and other projects, which Rama likewise opposed, in favor of the road-widening project of Cebu 1st District Rep. Eduardo Gullas.

Last week, Osmeña announced that he will revive his plan and will have at least six overpasses constructed in sites already identified by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The cost will come up to about P3.31 billion, which, Osmeña said, he will raise from sources which he, however, refused to divulge.

It was a loan from JICA, which Osmeña obtained in behalf of the city, that made possible the creation of the hugely successful South Road Properties. And since it is a JICA interim report that validated Osmeña's (and del Mar's) position on the wisdom of making "vertical improvements" to address the problem of impeded traffic flow, it is easy to speculate that the Japanese aid agency will once more be Osmeña's financier.

The returnee mayor promised to complete his pet projects before the end of his term in 2019, taking a quick jab at Rama, who, he said, has not accomplished anything. Osmeña, of course, knows that he could not enter into a contract such as a loan in behalf of the city unless the City Council authorizes him to do so. He is also aware that the configuration of the incoming City Council does not favor him.

Still, they do not seem to have diminished his enthusiasm and his confidence that the needed money can be found and that the overpasses will be finished on time. Maybe, he indeed has a way to find the money but he is not telling anyone, lest his enemies, and he has many, learn from him.

Will the flyovers serve the purpose for which they will be erected? The JICA says so and identifies the six sites where they will immediately be useful: the street corners of: M.J. Cuenco and Juan Luna, M.J. Cuenco and Maxilom, Osmeña (the boulevard, not the avenue) and N. Bacalso, V. Sotto and Arellano, Briones and United Nations, and P. del Rosario and Leon Kilat.

The fear among businessmen is that the presence of the flyovers will result in diminished revenues in the affected areas. To landowners, it could mean a degradation in land use and value. The opposition to Osmeña's plan this year will therefore be as vehement as, if not more than, in 2012. Tommy will have his hands full dealing with them. One thing working for him is that unlike four years ago, he is now the mayor. Can the businessmen afford and are they willing to fight City Hall?

***
Because there are not enough church-goers, some parish priests outside of Metro Cebu don't say mass anymore on weekdays. Five days off a week? Not bad.

Archbishop Jose Palma completely disagrees, though. According to The Freeman, the archbishop was prompted to send his priests a "fraternal reminder" to celebrate mass in their parishes every day, and not only on Sundays, after hearing reports that the reverends are no-shows from Monday to Friday.

Vanishing attendance in masses is a serious concern that the Church has to address. This involves the same question that I raised when we last met with the archbishop a month ago: is the Church losing its influence over the members of the faith? Palma humbly admitted that it is a challenge that they are trying to unlock.

It is a responsibility that we should all buy in as THE Church. And it is a responsibility that a priest abandons when he shuts the door to his church and goes to and overstays in the city to escape the boredom of sharing his reflections before empty pews, a solitary farmer and his goat.

(frankotherside@gmail.com)
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